Why do people have speech impediments?
May 12, 2005 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Why do people have speech impediments?

I'm talking about the type of speech impediment that causes people to make that hiss sound when sounding out the letter S. I only ask because more recently I've noticed that it's quite a common thing for people to have and was wondering if these people share a similar trait that causes them to speak this way (with a lisp). Of course I only ask this question with sincere interest and I hope it is perceived this way.
posted by sjvilla79 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
Perhaps a hare lip or cleft palate or some kind of tooth misalignment? Seems like a severe overbite might cause a sibilant problem too.
posted by spicynuts at 6:41 AM on May 12, 2005

My speech issues go a bit farther than that, but for me it's due to my hearing being rather screwed up. I don't hear the inaccuracies of my speech unless I hear it on a recording. I don't know how common that is, though.
posted by amandaudoff at 7:50 AM on May 12, 2005

I was diagnosed with this "tongue-thrust" as a very young child, and I think it's just because I learned the wrong way to pronounce the letter S. It appears that you're supposed to keep the tip of your tongue behind your teeth when you say it, but mine comes out past them. I had some speech therapy to fix it, but it never took because I couldn't hear the difference (and still can't) and so couldn't be arsed to change my ways.

(O/T: amandaudoff, I see we live in the same zip code, and your name strikes me as very familiar. Did we go to school together? E-mail is in my profile.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:04 AM on May 12, 2005

I was in speech therapy for several years (grades 2-4, on and off) for a lisp.

The issue for me was simply that I never learned to keep my tongue on the top of my palate... It sort of slid off the front and in between the soft curve of the front of the palate and my teeth.

Nothing in the way of a cleft palate for me... Just not knowing how to make a proper "s" for the first six years of life and having to break the habit.

Once the lisp itself was licked, I still had some issues because I tended to talk really fast. My speech therapists spent a lot of time helping me degunk my speech in general by slowing me down and reducing my dependency on little filler tics like "y'know" and "so" and "like."

My wife thinks three years of speech therapy sounds horrible. I mainly remember the last year, when all the tedious "ace ees ice oas oos" exercises were over. I got to spend a lot of time just hanging out with the speech therapist, who was happy to spend our session talking about Star Wars (the first one, not this newfangled stuff), the Hobbit, and whatever else I was into, offering the occasional correction when I'd get excited and lapse into a bad pattern.

For the record, I still have a soft lisp now and then, mostly when I'm thinking more about what I'm saying than how I'm saying it. It's more of a "mushy s" than a "hissing s," though.
posted by mph at 8:15 AM on May 12, 2005

I'm not exactly clear on your question, because as far as I understand the "s" sound is a hiss, but I do know people from (Southern?) California have a tendency to make some "s" sounds in to a "sh." For instance, "Nordstrom" becomes "Nordshtrom." I can't find the link to that, but I can attest that people have pointed out to me that I make a "sh" sound out of many of my esses. So it could be what you hear as a mistake is a regional thing.
posted by dame at 8:18 AM on May 12, 2005

I think dame the sound is more like 'th' than 'sh'.

"A lisp is a Functional Speech Disorder (FSD). A functional speech disorder is a difficulty learning to make a specific speech sound, or a few specific speech sounds.The word 'functional' means that the cause of the disorder is not known." (speech pathologist - lots more info.)

wiki - "People with a lisp are unable to pronounce sibilants (like the sound of "s") and replace them with interdentals (like the sound of "th")."
posted by peacay at 8:58 AM on May 12, 2005

Oh the good thing -- only 5 - 10% of people have a completely normal voice!
posted by peacay at 9:00 AM on May 12, 2005

It's usually a mix between misaligned teeth, a large tongue, or an incorrect ability that the tongue grows to have.
posted by itchie at 12:14 PM on May 12, 2005

It's called a "laterally emitted S" - I've got a mild one.

I learned about mine years ago - never really thought about it until I started taking advanced speech courses in theater. The fact is, I could train myself out of it, but I've never made the effort. Most people never notice it and it only bugs me when I listen to recordings of my own voice.

Here's some additional info: Speech Disorders.
posted by cptnrandy at 12:32 PM on May 12, 2005

I learned not so long ago from my dentist that I am tongue tied (well, I always KNEW I couldn't stick my tongue out because of a flap of skin, I just had no clue what it was called) (oh, do us who have this condition a favour -- don't ask us to stick out our tongues [teachers, dentists, etc]. It hurts like a serious son-of-a-bitch).

Supposedly this causes speech impediments, so I likely have one that nobody has commented on. :-)

The idea that most people have a speech impediment doesn't strike me as odd, since I've probably lived with one my whole life and never noticed, and probably won't ever figure out. :-D
posted by shepd at 1:38 PM on May 12, 2005

My younger brother was born with a cleft palate and bilateral harelip (both sides). When he first started talking I was the only one who could understand him. Esses were particularly difficult for him. He eventually ended up in speech therapy that lasted through elementary (grade) school. He talks fine now.
posted by deborah at 4:10 PM on May 12, 2005

My best friend has what appears to be a lisp on the letter "s." She is hard of hearing and has no hearing in the upper frequencies at all. Even with years of speech therapy and speaking while watching the resulting waveforms on monitors, she cannot make a regular "s" sound because she just can't hear the difference.
posted by aaronh at 12:02 PM on May 16, 2005

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